Level-headed Goetz takes over reeling Minnesota program

In this Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, photo, University of Minnesota interim athletic director Beth Goetz listens to a question during an interview in Minneapolis. Goetz has stepped into the chaos at Minnesota after athletic director Norwood Teague left amid sexual harassment allegations and is tasked with stabilizing a shaken department. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Beth Goetz was quiet as usual while her parents, Les and Ann, drove their daughter to a band concert in seventh grade. And it wasn’t until Beth started her flute solo in the middle of the show that they realized their little girl was a featured part of the show.

“That’s just kind of her demeanor,” Ann Goetz said. “We hear about her accomplishments from other people, but she doesn’t really tell us about it.”

So they weren’t surprised nearly three decades later that when Beth was thrust into a leadership role at Minnesota after athletic director Norwood Teague was embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal, they found out about it second-hand.

Teague resigned, and the Golden Gophers have turned to the understated 41-year-old former college soccer standout who has never led an athletic department. Her steady hand is needed to settle a reeling program and take the wheel on a massive facilities project.

“When opportunity knocks, you say yes,” said Goetz, who was deputy athletic director under Teague. “That’s what we tell our student-athletes. Prepare yourself and when somebody asks, you say yes.”

Goetz grew up the oldest of four girls in Florissant, Missouri, with an elementary school teacher for a mother and a father who took over a family business selling and installing windows.

“I like to say my dog and my cat gave me more trouble than any of our four girls did,” Ann Goetz said.

Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who worked with Goetz when she oversaw compliance at Butler, calls her a rock star.

“There may be chaos and it may feel chaotic around her, but she always seems to be measured,” Stevens said. “She always seems to be in the same mode. I just think that consistency’s huge.”

One year after finishing her soccer career at Clemson, the psychology major who planned to become a therapist was a 23-year-old head coach of the women’s team at Missouri-St. Louis.

Goetz also drove the van for road trips, swept the gym floor and mowed the lawn.

“Who doesn’t want to be out on a beautiful day cutting the grass?” Goetz said. “Plus it’s a big fun lawnmower. I know more about turf than most people probably would expect.”

Her ability to find the positive in less-than-ideal circumstances should serve her well now. Teague hired her away from Butler in 2013 and gave her wide latitude to meet with donors and work with coaches.

So when Teague was accused of drunkenly groping two university employees, sending sexually explicit text messages to one of them and behaving similarly toward a Star Tribune reporter, it rocked the university.

“It’s hard to hear that about anyone, certainly someone that you worked with,” Goetz said. “Egregious judgment and behavior. It’s just disappointing. Certainly disappointing.”

Goetz said she had no knowledge of Teague’s behavior, and her father sensed the anguish in her voice when she called home one night.

“I said to her, ‘I know you’ve got a very strong backbone and can do many things. I also know you’ve got a soft bone in your back for people and I know you’re very disappointed and hurt by your friend,'” Les Goetz said. “She said, ‘Oh yeah, dad, I couldn’t believe it when I heard it.’

“And I understand that. I think she admired that gentleman very much and we all tend to do that at points in our lives.”

There is no time to wallow.

Football coach Jerry Kill is pushing for a groundbreaking this fall on a $190 million athletes’ village that includes new practice facilities for the football and basketball team, and they still have a long way to go on the fundraising end.

“Our team, though they may not have done something like this before, there’s nobody else I want to go to battle with,” Goetz said. “They’re all going to step up. We’re ready.”

After getting the interim tag, Goetz called Lori Flanagan, the athletic director at UMSL who had experience with the interim tag at St. Louis University, for advice and started to plow ahead.

“What you’re trying to do is just stabilize everyone,” Flanagan said. “Because when your AD leaves, everyone is in flux, whether they realize it or not. It’s now open game for everyone. So Beth, that’s what she’s going to do. She’s going to stabilize.”

Even in her first few days crisscrossing the campus, Goetz recognized the jitters in coaches and staff members who read the salacious headlines.

“I think you’re naive to say everybody is going to be fine through a transition because people are going to think, ‘How might that impact me today or down the road?'” Goetz said. “But I think that what you do is communicate as much as you can. You’re as transparent as possible and reassure everybody we’re going to move forward.”

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